Press release

Lord Bew appointed to chair external review of testing

Education Secretary Michael Gove appoints the cross-bench peer to chair a review of key stage 2 testing, assessment and accountability.

Lord Bew will lead a small review panel consisting of two education experts, a number of primary headteachers and one secondary school head. The panel is due to launch a 12-week call for evidence, following which it will publish a progress report summarising the evidence gathered. The panel will publish its final report by June 2011.

The review will look at a number of issues, including

  • how best to ensure schools are properly accountable to pupils, parents and the taxpayer for the achievement and progress of every child, on the basis of objective and accurate assessments
  • how to ensure parents have good-quality information on the progress of their children and the success of schools
  • how to avoid, as far as possible, the risk of perverse incentives, over-rehearsal and reduced focus on productive learning
  • how to ensure performance information is used and interpreted appropriately within the accountability system by other agencies, increasing transparency and preserving accountability to parents, pupils and the taxpayer while avoiding the risk of crude and narrow judgements being made.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has acknowledged the current system can be improved to ensure concerns - such as children being ‘drilled’ at the expense of broad learning - are overcome while the information parents want is still provided.

Michael Gove said:

We know parents support clear, rigorous and transparent testing at the end of primary school, and the OECD has concluded that external accountability is a key driver of improvement in education and particularly important for the least advantaged. So we must continue to allow parents to know how their local primary schools are performing.

Raising standards and narrowing gaps are the central goals of the Government’s education policy. It is not our intention that the accountability system should be punitive or unfair to schools working in difficult circumstances but it must be able to identify and tackle cases of sustained underperformance.

Equally, I recognise concerns from heads and teachers about the current system. That is why I have ordered a review - to see whether there is a better way to give parents the information they want and hold schools to account, while overcoming the concerns.

I am delighted that Lord Bew, a hugely experienced, cross-bench peer, has agreed to lead the review, and I look forward to considering the panel’s findings next year.

The Education Secretary also announced today new arrangements for delivering National Curriculum tests and assessments following the abolition of the QCDA. Working within the Department, an executive agency will oversee statutory tests and assessments for children up to age 14. Its exact remit will be confirmed following consideration of the recommendations of Lord Bew’s review.

Michael Gove said:

It is essential that the statutory assessment arrangements put in place following our review are delivered in a timely and effective way. It is right that accountability for ensuring this rests with ministers, and that is why I am establishing an executive agency within my department that will be accountable to me for the secure delivery of its functions.

As the independent regulator, Ofqual will continue to have an important role, as it does now, in keeping under review the agency’s functions relating to National Curriculum tests and assessments.

Notes to editors

  1. Lord Bew is a cross-bench peer, Professor of Irish Politics at Queen’s University in Belfast, and a Member of Royal Irish Academy (MRIA). He was a historical adviser to the Saville Inquiry from 1998 to 2001.
  2. Membership of the panel in full is: Lord Bew - Chairman; Miriam Rosen - Former Executive Director, Ofsted; Ruth Miskin - Founder, Read-Write Inc. and former primary headteacher; Greg Wallace - Headteacher, Woodberry Down Community Primary School in Hackney; Helen Clegg - Headteacher, Shiremoor Primary School in North Tyneside; Kate Dethridge - Headteacher, Churchend Primary School in Reading; Lubna Khan - Headteacher, Berrymede Junior School in Ealing; Tim Sherriff - Headteacher, Westfield Community School in Wigan; Sally Coates - Principal, Burlington Danes Academy in West London
  3. Representatives of Ofsted and Ofqual will act as observers.
  4. The terms of reference for the review can be downloaded from this page.

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